WASHINGTON — She has vacationed in Mexico, attended the Vancouver Folk Music festival multiple times, kayaked to Canada, spent Christmas in Cambodia, celebrated New Year’s in Thailand, enjoyed a weekend in Rome, studied in Spain, paddled for seven weeks in Chile, endured a 13-hour layover in a French airport and has been to Japan, twice.
This adventurous 20-year-old from Seattle, Wash., has traveled and visited more than many of her age can claim. Though her passport may be weathered and nearly every page stamped, the amount of diversity and different ways of life that she has been exposed to have only made her curious to learn and see more.
Mackenzie Cannon, a self-described independent spirit, has now settled in Washington, D.C., a starkly different Washington from the city she calls home, and is adjusting to life as one transfer student out of 317 others new this fall to American University (AU). Long yearning for an East Coast way of life, she made the trip from Seattle to the capital by herself and with nothing but a few overstuffed duffle bags.
After years of travel, excitement and a somewhat unconventional schooling, she said she feels a sense of ease moving into the bustling political hub following her fall 2012 semester in the nation’s capital through Lewis and Clark College.
“I knew from the get-go that I didn’t want to go there,” Cannon, 20, said about the small Portland, Ore., school where she started her college career. In her freshman year at Lewis and Clark, Cannon shared a room with a student who also was unsatisfied with what Lewis and Clark offered. The two freshmen bonded over their itching desires to get away, but Cannon’s roommate was the first to act. Cannon watched her friend go through the transfer process and came to realize that it was more work and stress for something that she was not even sure she wanted.
So Cannon opted to spend the first semester of her sophomore year in the District through her college. Living with Lewis and Clark students, taking classes together and working with professors affiliated with the West Coast school, she began to get the education she was looking for.
“I was meeting such cool people and loving what I was doing,” she said about her semester in the District. By spending her time outside of class interning in the city for the Truman National Security Project, she gained firsthand political experience working alongside professionals. The internship deepened her interest in politics and economics, the latter of which she is majoring in. “It was a really cool environment,” she said, “especially during the campaigns.”
With an innate passion for politics similar to many of D.C.’s residents, Cannon began to see all of the potential possibilities and careers she might pursue. “I think one of the big reasons why I moved to D.C. is because people are doing so much, and there are so many different jobs and industries that I have never even heard of,” she said. “Being here, I can finally see why people go to school — to get into these industries,” she said.
When it came time for Cannon to think about filling out the transfer applications, Cannon was enthusiastic about the possibility that the District could be a more permanent home. After taking the spring 2013 semester off and kayaking through Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state, she was ready to go back to school. And with a close friend already attending AU, she knew American was an option.
She ultimately chose over AU over rival D.C. school George Washington University. “A big reason I chose AU over GW was that the administration was so much easier to work with,” she said.
In addition to helpful advisers and employees working in AU’s transfer department, the university offers extensive transfer resources on its website. Features including the American University Transfer Articulation Equivalency site were especially helpful to Cannon. This tool allows the potential transfer to plug in their course history so they will know exactly what credits will transfer.
The transfer website also boasts a Transfer Application Checklist that helps students stay organized and clear-headed during what Cannon found to be a process that required a lot of work.
Something that posed a bit more of a challenge to Cannon was finding somewhere to live this semester. Unlike her Lewis and Clark program, which organized her housing and allotted space for all of the students in the program to live and learn together, housing at AU was more in her control. Since she wanted to live off campus, Cannon sought housing information and apartment listings on her own time.
She used Craigslist and other reference websites, finding some offers that were too good to be true. “At least one person I talked to was a part of a scam,” she said.
She then used the AU Off Campus Housing website, a helpful and safer tool that students can use to seek out roommates and apartments in the AU area. Students can make a profile, list their likes, dislikes, position on the spectrum of messiness and detail their daily habits for other students to view. Through that resource, she was able to find an apartment close to campus with reasonable rent.
Overall, her recent move was not as hard: “Portland was a much harder transition,” she said. “Everyone’s content just hanging out all of the time,” she added.
The move to AU was an easier for Cannon, who values the initiative and fast-paced style of the city. In Portland, she was subject to what she called “ultimate West Coast living.” “Birkenstocks were my going out shoes,” she said. “It wasn’t cut out for me.”
In the District, and now at AU, Cannon sees hard work, passion, and competition all around her. She plans to get involved with the community on and off campus, and begin establishing networks and relationships before graduation.
“I feel really confident being here,” she said. “I know there will be a path, maybe not the perfect path, but a path here for me after graduation,” she added.